Finland's development cooperation in Iraqi and Syrian conflicts

Finland responds to the effects of the crises in Iraq and Syria through development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Approved in 2017, the Strategy for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid provides the guidelines for Finland’s assistance to Iraq and Syria. The strategy covers the years 2017−2020.

Strategy for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian aid in response to the conflicts SYRIA AND IRAQ 2017–2020

Support to Syria

Since 2011, Finland’s assistance to the conflict in Syria through development cooperation and humanitarian aid has amounted to more than EUR 200 million. The aim is to assist with EUR 25 million in 2019. Roughly speaking, about half of Finland’s annual assistance is humanitarian aid and the other half development aid.

Humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid is provided especially to protect Syrians who suffer from the consequences of war to ensure that their basic needs, such as nutrition, education for children and healthcare, are met. The aid is channelled via joint appeals coordinated by the United Nations, the international Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and Finnish partner organisations. In the first round of funds distribution for humanitarian aid in 2019, Finland’s contribution in response to the crisis in Syria amounted to EUR 10.4 million. About one-third of Finland’s humanitarian aid is channelled to Syria’s neighbouring countries that host the majority of Syrian refugees.

Development cooperation

Finland’s country-specific and regional development cooperation focuses on supporting the political process in Syria and on countering impunity. Another focus area is to support the most vulnerable groups such as women and children in Syria and its neighbouring countries Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Finland supports also the resilience of Syria’s neighbouring countries that accommodate refugees so that they could cope with providing assistance to more than five million Syrian refugees. Development aid is directed especially at promoting the education and protection of Syrian children as well as women’s rights and employment opportunities.

Support to Iraq

In Iraq, Finland supports the country’s stabilisation through development cooperation and humanitarian aid as well as through contributing to crisis management. Finland supports Iraq by taking part in the international coalition against ISIS. Development cooperation funds are directed especially at rebuilding areas that were liberated from ISIS’ control. Since 2014, Finland has supported Iraq through development cooperation and humanitarian aid with some EUR 30 million.



  • Finland contributes to the peacebuilding that has helped Syrians in different parts of the country and outside Syria to create platforms and networks on local, national and international levels. This has secured better preconditions for them to promote the change from a violent conflict towards non-violence.
  • Finland has supported actors who have taught mediation and negotiation skills to Syrians in different communities and different parts of the country.
  • By educating women and supporting their meetings, women’s role in the peace process has been strengthened both at the grass-roots level and in connection with the Women’s Advisory Board (WAB) established by the UN Special Envoy to Syria.

Children and young people

  • In Syria, Finland’s contributions have benefitted more than 70,000 children through the renovation of schools, for instance.
  • Finland has also made it possible for more than 47,000 young people to receive life skills training and vocational education and training.
  • All in all, Finland’s aid has benefitted more than 190,000 children and young people in Syria.

In 2018, more than 9,000 women received sexual and reproductive health services through Finnish support.

Watch how Finland supported children’s access to education in Syria in 2017−2018:

Risk management

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq make the countries challenging environments. The continuously changing conflict dynamics and the context of fragile states present challenges to the implementation of development cooperation projects.

Risks are managed and reduced by continuously monitoring projects and programmes, holding dialogues with cooperation partners and maintaining readiness to introduce changes to project implementation. As a rule, Finland’s aid is channelled through multilateral organisations, such as joint funding mechanisms administered by UN organisations with strong risk management systems. External audits and evaluations of projects funded by Finland are also carried out regularly.

Ongoing development cooperation projects

Mediation and peacebuilding

  • Finland supports the work for peace carried out by the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission and its local partner the Common Space Initiative, UN Women and the Berghof Foundation. In 2019, Finland’s support for mediation related to the Syrian conflict amounts to some EUR 2.3 million.
  • Finland also supports the UN accountability mechanism, or the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM). The support in 2017–2018 amounted to EUR 1 million. There is a plan to continue the support.

Improving the position of Syrian children and young people and women

  • Finland supports UNICEF’s No Lost Generation initiative in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The supported projects promote Syrian children’s access to education. In 2015–2018, Finland’s contribution to the initiative amounted to a total of EUR 16.2 million. Together with UNICEF in Lebanon, Finland supports a project to promote children’s education and child protection. The project covers the years 2019−2020. Finland’s contribution to the project amounts EUR 3.7 million.
  • Finland provides assistance to UN Women’s work to improve the livelihood of Syrian refugee women in Jordan. Since 2013, Finland’s support has amounted to EUR 2.3 million, and additional aid for the project has been planned in 2019.

Strengthening the resilience of Syria and its neighbouring countries

  • Finland funds a regional programme within the UN Development Programme (UNDP) that aims to create job opportunities and businesses in Syria and its neighbouring countries, for both refugees and the locals who host them. Finland’s support to the programme amounts to EUR 8 million in 2015−2019.
  • As of 2013, Finland has assisted the Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF) with a total of EUR 6 million.
  • Finland provides funding to the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. In 2019, Finland’s contribution amounted to EUR 4.47 million.

Humanitarian mine action

  • Finland supports humanitarian mine action in Syria and Iraq with a total of EUR 5.43 million in 2017−2020. International organisations such as the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) implement the projects.